Word Traveler: Twenty-three great SAT words
This feature is for all word lovers as well as those studying for the SAT and seeking to learn new vocabulary.
alimentary: relating to nourishment; supplying nourishment [comes from Latin alimentum, from alere "nourish"]
- The alimentary canal consists of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.
- He researched the alimentary habits of Pakistan.
bereft: lacking something needed; sorrowful through loss or desperation [from bereave, whose base means "rob, plunder"]
- Her writing is bereft of imagination.
- He was utterly bereft when his cat died.
clemency: mildness of temper, esp. leniency or compassion toward an enemy or in sentencing a criminal; also, mildness of weather [from Latin clementem "mild, gentle"]
- The prisoner made a plea for clemency.
- The clemency of the weather this winter has been flabbergasting.
desultory: aimless, haphazard; disconnected, rambling; marked by lack of purpose [from Latin desultor "leaper, vaulter"]
- She wandered in a desultory fashion through the shopping mall.
- They carried on a desultory conversation.
esoteric: known only by a few people; understood by only an inner circle of people [from Greek esoterikos "belonging to an inner circle," from eso "within."]
- The school put on art exhibition for everyone, even those with the most esoteric tastes.
- Esoteric Buddhism involves doctrines handed down in secret.
fulminate: to denounce or criticize loudly; to explode or cause to explode [from Latin fulminare "to strike with lightning" (its original meaning in English) from fulmen "lightning"]
- The preacher fulminated against those who do not practice tolerance.
- The fireworks will soon fulminate.
gesticulation: a vigorous gesture; signal or indication by gesture [from Latin gestus "action, gesture"]
- Gesticulations by the nervous President gave away his lack of confidence.
- Wild gesticulations caught his attention at the airport.
hedonism: the pursuit of personal happiness and pleasure; the philosophical theory that pleasure is the highest good [from Greek hedone "pleasure" + English -ism]
- She is a perfect example of selfishness and hedonism.
- As an epicurean, he follows hedonism as a way of life.
irascible: easily provoked; irritable [from Latin irasci "to grow angry"]
- The author was energetic and irascible.
- His irascible personality may sometimes be soothed by music.
jocund: jolly; full of merriment [from Latin jocus "jest, joke"]
- I am more jocund than you may suspect.
- They loved having the jocund gentleman as a guest.
ken: range of knowledge; range of what one can know [a very old word from Teutonic and Germanic with the base meaning of "I know"]
- The math SAT is beyond my ken.
- Reading all those dictionaries has expanded her ken of vocabulary.
latent: not presently active; potential but not yet displayed [from Latin latere "to be hidden"]
- The latent picture was developed by the photographer.
- His latent musical talent came out when he learned to play the guitar.
maneuver: a skillful or clever move to gain a tactical end (can also be a verb: to act in order to achieve a goal or specific end) [from French meaning "manual labor", from Latin manus "hand" and operari "operation" - had a military meaning when it entered English, then took the general meaning around 1774]
- He executed the skillful maneuver.
- The diplomatic maneuvers avoided a military confrontation.
nuance: a subtle or slight variation in meaning, attitude, or other quality (can also be a verb: to impart a subtle variation in meaning or other quality) [from French nuance "shade of color," from Middle French nuer "to shade," from Latin nubes "cloud"]
- The nuances of our language make thesauruses necessary.
- He studied the painting for nuances of expression.
obtrude: to force oneself or one's ideas on others in an unwanted way; to extrude or stick out, thrust outward [from Latin ob- "in the direction of" + trudere "to thrust"]
- I will not obtrude when I visit their weekend house.
- Their shouting obtruded upon his reading time.
paucity: smallness in number; scarcity; insufficient quantity [from Latin paucitas "fewness; a small number," from paucus "few"]
- There is a paucity of information about the disease.
- The paucity of restaurants made the area unattractive to us.
quorum: minimum number of people that have to be at a meeting for it to be considered official or for decisions to be made [Latin, literally "of whom"]
- When a quorum is reached, the meeting will begin.
- They will need a quorum to hold the election.
rectify: to correct, set right [from Latin rectus "right" + ficare / facere "to make"]
- Let's rectify the mistake before the media sees it.
- We need to rectify the situation with the coach.
superfluous: beyond what is necessary or sufficient; extra [from Latin superfluere, super- "over" + fluere "to flow"
- His superfluous explanations fall on deaf ears.
- Ten desserts for twenty people is superfluous.
temerity: recklessness; fearless daring [from Latin temeritas/temeritatem "rashness," from temere "blindly, by chance"]
- You had the temerity to call him a liar?
- It takes a lot of temerity to sail a boat into a storm.
usurp: to illegally seize the power or rights of another [from Latin usurpare "to seize for use," from usus "a use" + rapere "to seize"]
- Mom does not like when you usurp her authority.
- The police did not attempt to usurp his rights.
vacillate: to waver in opinion or course of action; to oscillate or swing unsteadily [from Latin vacillare "to sway, stagger"]
- The President vacillates on why we are carrying on a war.
- Are you still vacillating between staying or going?
wanton: immoral; undisciplined, unmanageable [from Middle English wan- (prefix of negation) + towen "to discipline," so the word is literally "undisciplined"]
- He has a wanton disregard for human life.
- The wanton children roamed the restaurant.